Falling in love with . . . Bologna #settantessimo

April 21, 2015 — 1 Comment

Due Torri

When I was young lots of people I knew used to talk about Bologna. It was mostly talk about politics.

Despite the talk, I never visited and it wasn’t until late last year that I visited for the first time.  In the short time since I have revisited the city on three further occasions.  But from the first time I visited, the love affair began.

The city is beautiful, if not classically beautiful.  There are certainly more classically beautiful cities in Italy, but none more genuinely beautiful than Bologna. (Some of my photos here).

There are lots of different things, that taken together, make the city beautiful – the red buildings, the fantastic food, the university’s delightful rejection of the increasingly bland experience that is the modern English ‘student experience’ or maybe just a beer in ‘La Linea’ – the bar in Piazza Maggiore with its walls plastered with left wing posters.

It is true that Bologna in 2015 is not the quirky communist municipal stronghold that it was 50, or even 30, years ago (although it still retains its very own Via Stalingrado!).  But Bologna remains a fiercely political city.  Protests, strikes, street art, peeling posters everywhere – the signs are ubiquitous. For all it’s contentious modern day politics (the ruling centre left Democratic Party is currently raising revenue through privatisation programmes) the city remains one defiantly characterised by resistance.

And it is resistance that brings me to write this short blog.  Today is the 21st April 2015 – it is 70 years to the day that Bologna was liberated from fascism.  It is simply not possible to understand Bologna without understanding its experience of resistance and liberation between 1943 and 1945.  Everywhere in the city there are the visible signs of that struggle. The extraordinary Shrine of the Partisans in Piazza Maggiore is conspicuous and striking, but all over the city is the evidence of those who struggled against fascism, many paying with their life (and indeed many others paying in later years as a result of terrorist attacks that have also scarred the city). Just outside the old city walls is the huge cemetery with its monument to the city’s Jews killed in WW2, and also the Ossuary for the partisans.

It is impossible to visit Bologna and to not be affected by the legacy of that experience.  More than 2000 people of the city died in allied bombing and fascist reprisals, and over 2000 partisans were killed in the struggle for liberation.  The city marks all these deaths, but one illustrates the heroism – the story of Irma Bandiera whose memorial is located near to the city’s football ground. (Her birth, 100 years ago this month, marked in a ceremony with school children here).

This history, and the spirit that keeps it alive, is why Alexis Tsipras, when he visited Bologna in 2014, referred to the city as ‘il cuore della sinistra’.

Tonight in Bologna they will mark the anniversary with a concert in Parco Montagnola.  The Emilia-Romagna band Modena City Ramblers will play their version of Bella Ciao, the song of the Italian partisans which 70 years later has become an international song of freedom – from Athens to Tehran. I won’t be there, but I will be happy that my daughter will be, and we will both remember the courage of those everywhere who refuse to accept tyranny – then and now.

[If you’d prefer a contrasting version – then Paulo Fresu’s take here is superb.  It could not be more different – but the message is exactly the same and no less powerful].


One response to Falling in love with . . . Bologna #settantessimo


    Never been there but other parts of Italy..Nice overview:))))

    Date: Mon, 20 Apr 2015 23:10:05 +0000
    To: denizorucu@hotmail.com

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